I’ve been slacking on my blogger responsibilities, but I just haven’t been feeling it, ya know?
But one thing I have been feeling, perhaps a little too much of, is the underperformance of Blade Runner 2049 at the box office. (By the way, I’m writing this on my phone at work, so I apologize if this looks like shit) As of today, the film has grossed $240,000,000 (est. a month after release) against a $150,000,000 budget. I don’t know if that classifies as a box office “bomb”, but it appears that it’ll break even at best.
At first I was wildly upset. WILDLY. Americans, and indeed worldwide audiences, once again failed to appreciate a sci-fi classic; a sequel to a film that was an underappreciated sci-fi classic in 1982. Outside of Star Wars (and possibly Indiana Jones if you count those) filmgoers must hate Harrison Ford with science fiction. The 1982 film was later admitted into AFI’s top 100 movies OF ALL TIME and 2049 was rated as 51st top movie by IMDB last time I checked. Yet once again, audiences didn’t go for it!
Even the criticism of the sequel is a repeat from 1982. “It’s too boring”, “there’s not enough action”, “it doesn’t make sense”…everything that was said about the original Blade Runner. I remember watching Rutger Hauer give an interview during the 1992 re-release, once when the film started getting appreciated, and he stated that people simply didn’t get it. Harrison Ford was an action star, and audiences just weren’t expecting to see him not only get his ass kicked, but have an existential crisis…in the future! It just wasn’t what audiences wanted in a year that saw the release of ET, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, The Thing, and others. Although like Blade Runner, those films were dark…but Blade Runner was far more in-tune with 2001: A Space Odyssey than with the direction that 80s filmmaking was turning towards despite a few 80s trappings. It was out of time and it would be years before people would catch up with it.
Zoom ahead to 2017 with its sequel being released and I had assumed audiences now “got it”. But perhaps I placed too much faith on a public that elected Donald Trump president…when audiences would rather watch CGI porn like the Marvel films than be presented with anything that’s halfway intelligent. My mistake. But the more I thought about it, I felt its underperformance was quite fitting.
It was clear that the producers intended to do a third Blade Runner film. It appeared as though they wanted to do a story involving a replicant uprising along with Rick Deckard and his daughter. While that sounds interesting, it just comes across as too conventional. What made 2049 so compelling is that it took so long after the first film. And the producers made the right decisions to allow an auteur to direct rather than Ridley Scott or some conventional action director. Had it achieved the box office success that it intended, who knows if Villeneuve would have returned for a follow-up. Since that would have been unlikely, then we would have absolutely been stuck with some hack directing which would have turned the franchise into standard action fare.
Additionally, this shows that filmgoers simply aren’t ready to face the reality Blade Runner presents to us….a world covered in trash and rain…a world where our technology is more human than us. It’s STILL ahead of its time.
Although I’m still somewhat disappointed in modern audiences, we might’ve dodged a bullet. So get excited about Blade Runner 2079…coming October 2047. (And will inevitably bomb)